Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No same-sex marriage this term

In addition to asset sales, rising inequality, and lower wages, there's another cost to National's victory on Saturday night: we won't be seeing same-sex marriage in New Zealand for at least another three years. We already know its not a priority for the government (which apparently is incapable of walking and chewing gum - or pursuing its economic agenda while promoting human rights - at the same time), but it could still be advanced by a Member's Bill. Unfortunately, the numbers just aren't there.

A bill for same-sex marriage would primarily rely on the backing of the Labour and Green parties. Labour has 34 MPs, of whom only 30 are reliable (sadly, Clayton Cosgrove, Damien O'Connor, and Ross Robertson, all of whom voted against civil unions, are still with us). The Greens have 13, all of whom would support change. Hone Harawira's vote cannot be relied upon. No votes can be expected from NZ First, ACT, or United Future. So, the base support is 43 votes. You need 61 votes to pass legislation in this Parliament, so that means at least 18 (and more ideally, 20 - 25) votes will need to come from National.

Very few National MPs have explicitly stated their position on this issue. But we know that 29 of their current MPs voted explicitly to ban same-sex marriage in 2005. And they got a whole lot more bigots in in 2008 and 2011. It is highly unlikely that a third of their caucus will be progressive on this issue, let alone willing to stand against the party's default policy on it.

So, what can we do? We can not shut up about it. 60% of Kiwis support same-sex marriage. And if we can increase that number further, National's position on this issue will become untenable (at least if it wants to be seen as a serious, mainstream political party rather than some fringe bigot-cult). We might not be getting same-sex marriage this term, but its a long game, and we can try and lay the groundwork for change in three years time.